For those who enjoyed Love That Dog and Hate that Cat, Creech has written this third middle school novel, Moo – a novel, featuring, Zora, a very ornery Belted Galloway cow – who looks like an Oreo cookie. In a style similar to these earlier works, Creech seamlessly combines lyrical prose and free verse poetry, to explore the emotions of one family as they move from a big metropolis, to a very small community in Maine. Twelve-year old Reena, and seven-year old Luke, have mixed emotions about leaving their friends and the confines of a big city, but come to enjoy the freedom of a small town. They quickly learn that small towns are more tightly connected and everyone knows everyone – or thinks they do. Their parents volunteer them to help their neighbour with her menagerie of pets – a pig, a cat, a parrot, and especially Zora, her cow. Mrs. Falala is elderly, feisty, and unpredictable. She expects the children to muck out the stable, look after the animals and groom Zora for a country fair where she will be judged, along with her novice handler, Reena. Creech uses exquisite figurative language (e.g. “a question can swirl in your world”) to develop a sense of place and strong characters. Creech creates text that is a visual experience for the reader, adding interest and dimension on every page. A combination of text “images” (e.g. upper and lower case, bold and italics, font changes) and placement of text on the page is appealing, visually representing the words themselves, and adding to the poetic nature of the text:
E N O R M O U S
Reader’s will be amused and engaged by this text that is written in the first person using Reena’s spunky voice. With double spacing, short paragraphs and condensed lyrical prose, this is a fast read for reluctant readers. Creech excels at characterization; Reena, Luke and Mrs. Falala are realistic and evolving. While urban youngsters may have difficulty relating to cows and farms, they will have no trouble identifying with other themes of loss (e.g. job loss, moving away from friends, death of an elder), the stress of making friends and fitting into a new situation, and that kindness and patience works wonders with both animals and people.
A useful novel for teaching character development, voice, word choice, playful language, and for introducing free verse poetry that is fun and unusual. As a read-aloud it will be important to display the pages on a Smartboard as they are read, so that students can fully appreciate the descriptive nature of the text itself.